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In the New Yorker today I read a powerful piece about a young Baltimore student left utterly adrift by the sudden closure of his public school. It’s the kind of story that should have been written dozens of times in dozens of cities by now but hasn’t. We all know why.
The effect of Trump’s declaration was instantaneous. Teachers who had been responsive to the idea of returning to the classroom suddenly regarded the prospect much more warily. “Our teachers were ready to go back as long as it was safe,” Randi Weingarten, the longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers, told me. “Then Trump and DeVos played their political [malarkey].” Ryan Hooper, the former soldier, saw the effect on his colleagues. “It was really unhelpful,” he said.
A week later, the Baltimore Teachers Union and the Maryland State Education Association sent a four-page letter to the Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, a Republican, and the state superintendent of schools, Karen Salmon, calling on them to bar any in-person instruction for the first semester. They noted that, by one count, nearly a quarter of teachers nationwide were considered especially susceptible to the virus, and cited the lack of funding for personal protective equipment and testing. They questioned whether students could be counted on to wear masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing.
Teachers had been responsive to doing their jobs… until President Trump weighed in about how important it was that they, in fact, did their jobs.
Teachers in districts planning an in-person start have taken part in mass “sick-outs,” forcing the cancellation of in-person learning. We keep hearing “it’s not the teachers, it’s the unions” pushing for virtual learning to continue, but that’s not what I’m seeing anecdotally or on the ground. Where are the teachers protesting their unions and publicly stating how vitally important it is they get back to teaching in-person? Their silence is deafening.
My patience for those in the teaching profession is at an all-time low. I’m not sure what more needs to happen before we come to the realization that the public school model isn’t working, and if kids are going to have a chance at coming out of this crisis intact, they need to be able to take the public money allocated for their education and attend institutions with teachers who actually care about them.Published in